For any mid-major fan, ESPN's BracketBusters provide a great weekend. Starting on February 18 and ending on February 20, ESPN will televise 11 games with 22 of the top mid-major teams in the country, some looking to put together a résumé for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Here are previews for the two Friday night games.
The previews will include the keys to the game for both teams, players to watch for, and then my personal pick for the game.
Virginia Commonwealth at Wichita State
The best BracketBuster game could possibly be the first one of the weekend.
VCU (20-8, 12-4 CAA) and Wichita State (22-5, 13-3 MVC) are both near the top of their respective conferences and could be, and both are looking to build résumés for at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.
This game is much more important for VCU. The Rams have lost their last two games, both of them at home.
However, Wichita State also needs this game badly. The Shockers did not do anything too special in non-conference play and their hopes for an at-large bid could be crushed if they lose this game.
Keys for VCU
Turn Defense into Offense
VCU forces nine steals per game and takes advantage of this by getting out in transition. The Rams will need to stay up to par on Friday to win on the road.
Make Your Three-Pointers
VCU has a handful of solid three-point shooters. The Shockers are just mediocre with perimeter defense. The Rams need to take advantage of all open looks from beyond the arc.
Keys for Wichita State
Stay Strong on the Boards
Wichita State is a much better rebounding team than VCU. The Shockers cannot afford to give VCU offensive rebounds. They need to stay with their strengths and rebound to basketball.
Take Care of the Ball
VCU is a strong defensive team and averages nine steals per game. Playing on the road, VCU needs to be able to get its nine steals per game. If Wichita State takes care of the ball, it will be a huge advantage for the Shockers.
Take Advantage from Beyond the Arc
Just like VCU, Wichita State is a solid three-point shooting team with multiple three-point shooters. VCU allows nearly six three-pointers per game while Wichita State averages over seven.
Players to Watch
For VCU, look out for Joey Rodriguez. Rodriguez can do a little bit of everything on the court and is a senior leader for the Rams. He got some national recognition early in the year for posted 17 assists against UNC-Greensboro. Although he has not been able to keep up numbers like that, he is still No. 3 in the CAA, averaging 4.4 assists per game.
For Wichita State, look for David Kyles. The junior from Texas shoots nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc and has hit as many as five three-pointers in a single game this season.
My pick: Wichita State by five
Kent State at Drexel
Kent State (17-8, 8-3 MAC) had been one of the hotter mid-majors in the nation before losing to Miami (OH) this week. The Golden Flashes do not have any chance at getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but a win against Drexel could help seeding in the event that they win the MAC tournament.
Drexel (17-9, 9-7 CAA) was hot at the start of the season and defeated No. 21 Louisville in December. However, the Dragons have cooled off a little in CAA play and stand in sixth place in the conference.
Keys for Kent State
Make the Game Offensive-Minded
Drexel generally plays lower-scoring games struggles more in higher-scoring games. Kent State plays better when there is more scoring.
Don't Be Afraid to Send Drexel to the Line
Drexel is not a strong free throw shooting team. As a team, the Dragons shoot 61.7 percent from the charity stripe. Drexel has a few good free throws shooters, but it also has a few very poor free throw shooters. Samme Givens, Gerald Colds, Daryl McCoy and Frantz Massenat all shoot under 60 percent.
Go with Balanced Scoring
Although Kent State's two dominant scorers are Justin Greene and Rodriguez Sherman, the Golden Flashes have other players who can score. Five players average more than nine points per game.
Keys for Drexel
Keep the Score Low
Just like Kent State wants a higher-scoring game, Drexel wants a lower-scoring game. Drexel will not be able to win this game if Kent State scores more than 70 points.
For Both Teams, the Battle on the Boards
Both Kent State and Drexel are two of the better rebounding teams in the country, although Drexel is the superior in that category at No. 8 in the nation. With both teams relying so strongly on rebounding, both teams will look to limit opponent rebounds.
Players to Watch
Look for Justin Greene on Kent State. Greene has scored in double figures in almost every game for the Golden Flashes. His strong moves down low are what get him there; the junior has only shot one three-pointer this year.
Chris Fouch on Drexel is one of the better mid-major players in the nation. The sophomore leads Drexel in scoring with 15.3 PPG. He has the ability to be an explosive scorer and has very good range.
My pick: Kent State by eight
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